I think I may really be getting the hang of this retro casserole thing. For me, casseroles are comfort food. I have fond memories of steaming hot casseroles emerging from the oven in all their tasty glory. They made great leftovers the next day, tasting just as good reheated. When I got back into cooking, a big casserole cookbook was my favorite.
There was only one problem: Most casseroles are a health nightmare. They are generally made with meat, oil, butter, eggs, and cheese in truly shocking amounts. Even when I was a less health conscious vegetarian, my casseroles built arterial plaque I’m sure I am still trying to dissolve. So I gave up. But thanks to Vegan Mofo this year and the Retro Saturday challenge, I dusted off some of those old family recipes, did a little research, and entered the lab (kitchen) to try and resurrect my childhood. I have met some success.
This week’s effort comes as a remake of Mary McDougall’s Baked Penne Florentine. I guess everyone in Florence, Italy puts spinach in everything, hence the name. I suppose they put it in their morning espresso, but I digress. I wanted to change up the sauce a little by intensifying the flavors, and adding some more veggies. Mary made it such that young children would enjoy it, but then added hot sauce to her plate! Of course, hot sauce rocks on just about everything.
Here is my version:
Spinach Pasta Casserole:
8 oz whole wheat, small shape pasta, like penne or ziti
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3/4 C raw cashews
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 head cauliflower, cooked
2 C water
1 T soy sauce
2 t lemon juice
1 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t mustard powder
1 T miso
salt, pepper, lemon juice, parsley, hot sauce for garnish
Put on a large pot of water to boil. Preheat oven to 350.
Cook pasta, and drain.
While pasta cooks, make sauce:
In a high speed blender or food processor, grind cashews to a fine powder. Add 1 C water and blend again until smooth. Add another cup of water and the remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth. Taste. Adjust seasoning as needed. If too thick, add a little more water and blend again.
When pasta is cooked and drained, place in a large mixing bowl. Add spinach and mix thoroughly. Spread pasta mixture into a casserole dish. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well. Dust with paprika. Cover tightly and bake for about 45 minutes. Let rest a few minutes before serving. Top each serving with any combination of parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Enjoy!